Licorice root extract

What does it do?
Reduces melanin (pigment) production in the skin
Helps remove existing melanin
It’s an antioxidant, protecting the skin from environmental damage
Reduces inflammation

Why should I use it?
Uneven skin tone
Hyperpigmentation, including melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

How do I use it?
Once or twice daily

Key benefits
Safe in pregnancy, so it’s a useful alternative to hydroquinone for pregnant women

Evidence rating

We’re all familiar with the edible licorice, but licorice when used in skincare is less well-known. However, it’s worth learning about, especially if you struggle with dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

What is licorice root extract, and what does it do?

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) extract is sourced from the root of the licorice plant, which is formally known as Glycyrrhiza glabra. It’s main benefits are that it reduces melanin (pigment) production in the skin, and helps remove existing melanin. In doing so, it helps to fade dark spots, melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It also contains compounds with antioxidant properties, and helps reduce inflammation.

Why should I use it?

Licorice root extract is useful for those with uneven skin tone and areas of hyperpigmentation, such as melasma or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It’s a good choice if you would prefer to avoid hydroquinone or can’t use it, for example if you’re pregnant. 

How should I use it?

Licorice root extract can be used once or twice daily, and should always be used in conjunction with sunscreen during the day.

Amer M, Metwalli M. Topical liquiritin improves melasma. Int J Dermatol. 2000 Apr;39(4):299-301.

Ciganović P, Jakimiuk K, Tomczyk M, Zovko Končić M. Glycerolic Licorice Extracts as Active Cosmeceutical Ingredients: Extraction Optimization, Chemical Characterization, and Biological Activity. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(10):445. Published 2019 Oct 1. 

Yokota T, Nishio H, Kubota Y, Mizoguchi M. The inhibitory effect of glabridin from licorice extracts on melanogenesis and inflammation. Pigment Cell Res. 1998 Dec;11(6):355-61.


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Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…